Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:
The dragons exist, I met them! Scales, claws, forked tongue, everything is there ... Listening only to my courage, I went to photograph these big prehistoric lizards or "varans" that live in the archipelago of Komodo, Indonesia.
Hunter of dragons
Indiana Jones can go get dressed. Not happy to take me for a princess on the PaschaI also transformed myself into a fearless adventurer, a dragon hunter, on the island of Rinca (pronounced "Rine-cha").
With that of Komodo - in the archipelago of the same name - Rinca is the other island where tourists are disembarked to meet the famous Komodo dragons. They are very big lizards, family of the monitor lizards. They are endangered and protected. There would be between 4,000 and 5,000 left in the Sunda Islands in Indonesia.
Listening only to my courage, I went to photograph them for you ... not even afraid!
Admire the big naughty claws, the prehistoric scales, the forked tongue! These monsters have fed fears and fantasies since the beginning of the 20th century, when Westerners discovered them.
It's the expedition of the American William Douglas Burden, who set off to explore this archipelago at the end of the world in 1926, which made them famous: he brought back two living specimens and he was called "Komodo dragons". This expedition even inspired the plot of the film King Kong from Cooper and Shoedsack in 1933! Three of its stuffed lizards are still visible at the American Museum of Natural History.
Komodo monitor attacks on a child (in 2007) and a fisherman (in 2009), as well as the story of this small group of divers stranded on the island of Rinca (in 2008), who had to repel a lizard throwing stones, continue to maintain the fear inspired by these charming critters.
Attention danger !
That said, the Komodo dragons may have become a tourist attraction, but beware of it. The rangers who make you visit the island are armed with long forked sticks. This is not to amuse the gallery nor just for photos. This is to repel the giant lizard too fearless who would be tempted to approach.
The Komodo lizards measure 2.50 to 3 meters long, tail included. It was long thought that their saliva contained very toxic bacteria. In fact, like other reptiles, they have venom glands [see the section "Venom and bacteria" on Wikipedia]. A bite can be fatal.
One would think them slow and clumsy, when one discovers them huddled up, in the process of sleeping, near the garbage cans of one of the rangers' bungalows, which serves as a kitchen. But they are incredibly fast and agile.
Ranger-guides plan to take pictures to prevent unwary tourists from coming too close. A small group of visitors has also taken possession of the overhanging terrace to better observe them when we arrive.
It is really recommended not to approach too much. The dragons have become accustomed to human presence, they know they can find food in the area. But they remain wild animals, with unpredictable reactions. Courageous, but not reckless, I wisely remain at a distance, following the instructions of the rangers. Indiana Jones would have done the same.
Then everyone leaves to explore the island, preceded by a ranger armed with a forked stick.
I admit, I am a little disappointed not to have met other dragons on the way. The only ones I've seen - and photographed - are those who hang out near the ranger's quarters.
Under the sun of Rinca
Rinca Island is arid. A savannah landscape, with very little shade, overlooking the azure water. A few palms here and there.
The only big beast we encountered during this small expedition was a wild buffalo. I was scared only after. Realizing that said buffalo was not attached.
Well yes, used to those rice fields, I did not think at first. We are in a nature reserve here! The animals are free. It can be as dangerous as a monitor, a wild buffalo ...
Two hours of walking in full sun. But the ride is worth it.
Jerome, my guide diving on the Pascha, is in the game. And our adorable tidy guide stops regularly to show us the natural curiosities of the island: edible fruits trapped in a calabash, whose name I have forgotten. Hens of water stashed in the mangrove. The holes dug by female lizards, where they lay their eggs. A monkey hanging high in an interlacing of branches.
At every turn of the trail, I watch, hoping for a monitor. But no. Nothing. Another hen of water.
My soul Indiana Jones and my bravery begin to melt under this ruthless sun. We share the sips of water that remain at the bottom of the bottles. When the walk ends, it is with happiness that I find the ranger's memories hut, where I do not buy any wooden figurine with the effigy of the dragons, but where I get a boost of energy. shade, sipping an almost fresh Coke.
A tip to our guide and here we are ready to re-embark on the Pascha. I am a bit sad. Because it's also my last day in the Komodo archipelago ...
But I still have some things to show you. Because the bastards with teeth are not only terrestrial, in the corner: there are plenty under water too. (Indiana Jones, get out of this body!)